New rule to stop households being left without broadband during NBN transition

ACMA holds off on mandatory line-testing standard

New rules introduced by the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) are designed to stop households being left without any access to telecommunications services when there are hiccups during their migration to the National Broadband Network.

The new Service Continuity Standard is the latest in a slate of regulatory measures taken by the ACMA to improve end user experience during and after transition to the NBN.

Under the standard, which takes effect on 21 September, where feasible NBN and telecommunications providers must not disconnect existing fixed-line services unless a new NBN connection is working.

If there is a problem during the migration, legacy copper-based services need to be reconnected where possible or an alternative service offered while the problem is resolved.

The standard takes effect “where the migration of a legacy service to the NBN has been unsuccessful, and is unlikely to be successful within a reasonable period of time” and “where the migration of a legacy service to the NBN has been successful, but a voice service or broadband service cannot be supplied to a particular consumer on the NBN for an unreasonable period of time, and it remains readily feasible to supply legacy services to that premises”.

The ACMA redrafted the standard following consultations with Communications Alliance, industry stakeholders, and consumer groups including the Australian Communications Consumer Action Network.

Communications Alliance raised a number of objections to the ACMA’s initial draft standard, including that it could give the wrong impression to consumers that they did not need to migrate to the new network and that it could delay the transition process.

The industry group also argued that it may be more appropriate to offer consumers access to mobile-based services in some circumstances — for example during a transition to FTTC and FTTN services, reconnecting a legacy service may be impractical.

“Only in cases where there is no other option that can deliver a service to the consumer and where a reconnection to a legacy network is technically feasible, should a reconnection to a legacy service be considered,” the group said in a submission to ACMA’s consultation.

The revised standard includes the concept of an “NBN backup service” that is not based on the new network nor on the legacy copper network.

The ACMA has also issued a Consumer Information Standard that requires a retail service provider (RSP) to offer an information sheet to prospective customers that contains details of its plans, in a similar fashion to the critical information summaries that accompany mobile phone services.

“While the majority of consumers are having a good experience in their migration to the NBN, unfortunately a number are not,” ACMA chair Nerida O’Loughlin said in a statement.

“Telcos need to step up to provide better information to their customers and make sure they are not left without a service during their migration to NBN-based services.”

The ACMA is also proposing to introduce a line-testing standard to ensure that households aren’t paying for speeds that their FTTN and FTTB NBN connections are not capable of achieving. Australia biggest telcos have already been forced to compensate tens of thousands of consumers over the issue.

A proposed line-testing standard was unveiled at the same time as the draft Consumer Information Standard and Service Continuity Standard. However, the standard is yet to be finalised.

“ACMA is thoroughly working through the range of issues that have been raised in the consultation process and is releasing the rules in stages once they have been finalised,” a spokesperson for the regulator told Computerworld.

“This gives the industry as much time as possible to put their processes in place to comply.   A further rule on line testing and continuity of service will be released by the end of July.”

Government appoints new NBN non-executive director

The government announced today that it had appointed Zoe McKenzie to NBN’s board for a three-year term as a non-executive director.

McKenzie is the CEO of Trade and Investment Advisory.

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